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Hartford restaurant owner concerned for downtown as state employees continue to work from home

Downtown has seen a significant decrease in foot traffic over the last two years, and a big part of the area workforce are State of Connecticut employees.

HARTFORD, Conn. — A Hartford restaurant owner is calling on the state to bring its employees back to the office as downtown businesses struggle to stay afloat after the effects of the pandemic.

Governor Lamont initially directed all state employees who were able to work from home to do so due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Getting ready for dinner service in downtown Hartford looks different these days.

“Pre-pandemic, you had a vibrant capital city and now, it’s a ghost town,” Steven Abrams, Owner of Max Downtown on Asylum Street in Hartford and Vice President of Max Hospitality, said.

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Abrams said downtown businesses rely on business from people working in the capital city. The downtown area has seen a significant decrease in foot traffic over the last two years, and a big part of the area workforce are State of Connecticut employees.

“The small sandwich shops and the retailers, and whatever else it is, needs the people,” Abrams said. “It’s ridiculous. It’s utterly crazy. We need the Governor to be a cheerleader for the Capitol City and instead, he has pulled the rug out from under us.”

While Abrams acknowledges it’s slowly getting better with the return of corporate employees to the area, he wants the state to get its workers back in the office.

Governor Lamont’s office says the union, the State Employees Bargaining Agent Coalition, also known as SEBAC, has a temporary telework agreement with the state, so employees can work remotely.

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“If it doesn’t hurt your productivity, allow people to work from home wherever possible. Where it hurts productivity and where it’s really important for people to be able to work together, we want them in the office.” Lamont said.

Lamont’s chief of staff said determining who can work from home is up to the agency heads and commissioners based on their department’s needs and this applies to all employees.

“I think more and more people are going back to the office,” Lamont said. “And I hope that when you do come back to the great city of Hartford, in this case, go to some of the restaurants and the others that have been struggling, waiting for you to come home.”

We reached out to SEBAC about the topic and they declined to comment.
The governor’s chief of staff said state employees will be working remotely until they can finalize a new agreement.

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